Friday, March 22, 2019

Strong, Vulnerable

3/14/19 Shannon (5-min. pose)
3/14/19 5-min. pose

I’ve been attending Gage Academy’s life-drawing sessions for nearly seven years now. Some models I have drawn only once; others I sketch time and time again. A few I have drawn so regularly that I have gotten to know them, and we follow each other on social media. But regardless of the model, I am always awed by his or her courage and willingness to stand before us for three hours, naked. It’s a job that requires a certain combination of both strength and vulnerability.

With each pose, an unspoken dialog occurs between the artist and the model that involves trust and sensitivity. While my main objective in attending figure sessions is to improve my people-drawing skills, I also feel compelled to try to express whatever I sense of this person who is willing to take off his or her clothes for our scrutiny.

3/14/19 20-min. pose

3/14/19 10-min. pose

3/14/19 10-min. pose

3/14/19 This final 7-minute pose was my favorite of the afternoon -- what an awesome foreshortening challenge!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Spring Palette Refresh (Screw Minimal Palettes)

Getting ready for spring!
My basic palette

The sunshine and warm temperatures we’ve been having this week have made me optimistic: It’s time to refresh my palette for spring. Working with my usual basic palette (shown at right), I’ve substituted Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle 015 (though it may look yellow in my photo above, it’s a very yellow yellow-green) for 245. I’ve also added Caran d’Ache Supracolor 091 with the hope that I’ll soon be sketching cherry blossoms (or at least plum blossoms). It’s a slightly darker pink than the one I’ve used in previous years because pink always becomes less intense than it looks in the test swatch.

I’ve been thinking more about primary palettes, choosing a palette based on frequency of use, and other palette minimization attempts, and today I’m here to say: Screw them all. That doesn’t mean I’m going to add a hundred pencils to my palette; I’m still sticking with not exceeding the 25 slots in my Tran Portfolio Pencil Case. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it doesn’t make sense to be so stingy with specific hues, especially if they are difficult to mix and convey meaning that another hue might not.  

Just the right green.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago at Union Station, I began drawing the large pottery vases and tile walls, and I was thrilled to pieces that I happened to have the color verdigris (Caran d’Ache 182) in my bag. Although I don’t have much use for it in Seattle, it’s a hue I always make sure I take with me to Europe for statuary and building details. I guess I had left it in my palette ever since my trip to Portugal last summer. In any case, it was just the right kind of green that would be difficult, if not impossible, to mix, especially with colored pencils. More important, it conveyed meaning in terms of the d├ęcor of the place. Someone went to a lot of trouble to find vases that match the wall tiling.

However, my renewed liberalism about color does not mean I’m letting myself go in terms of my sketch kit in general. In fact, even as I allow more hues, I’m going to be more conservative than ever about considering everything else I carry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kite Hill

3/16/19 Kite Hill at Gas Works Park

I’ve sketched at Gas Works Park probably more often than any other Seattle city park. The massive gas works themselves are almost always my focus; it’s hard to resist those mysterious, steampunkish structures. Last Saturday, though, I wanted to focus instead on all the happy locals reveling in the sunshine on Kite Hill. It’s been a long, record-breakingly cold winter, and just being able to take a walk without a down jacket felt like a celebration.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Coming Down

3/15/19 Heavy equipment ready for action on the viaduct.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct has been closed for more than a month now, and its demolition has been occurring gradually, a small area at a time. After seeing the Jeffrey Gibson exhibit at SAM, we wandered through the north end of Pike Place Market to see if any destruction was ongoing. Lots of heavy machinery was scattered about the otherwise empty viaduct, waiting for some action. We could hear activity further south, but nothing was happening near Steinbrueck Park where I sketched this. Soon enough, it’ll be a noisy, dusty mess there.

The graffiti’d lane signs shown in this sketch are the same ones I sketched in February when I walked on the viaduct – but from the other side.

(According to my phones weather app, it was 63 degrees while I sketched this! Spring could happen yet!)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer

3/15/19 Seattle Art Museum

Contemporary artist Jeffrey Gibson uses found objects, repurposed cultural artifacts and disparate materials like rawhide, punching bags and tin jingles to bring together his multiple heritages. Including paintings, three-dimensional wall hangings and sculptures, his exhibit Like a Hammer at the Seattle Art Museum provokes thought through vivid colors and shapes, pop music lyrics and lots of fringe and beads.

It’s also a sketchable exhibit with numerous large, colorful pieces displayed in wide spaces and good lighting. On Friday morning, we had SAM to ourselves, and I managed to get quick sketches of two visually striking works. One is part of the “Everlast” series of beaded punching bags. The other is called “All for One, One for All,” one of several large avatars.

Like a Hammer is at SAM through May 12.

3/15/19 Seattle Art Museum

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Green Lake Drive

3/13/19 Green Lake neighborhood

The drive curving around the perimeter of Green Lake doesn’t allow parking everywhere, but this spot was handy: Parked where the road turns sharply, I could see the profiles of several houses as well as trees and cars directly in front of me. (It was a partly sunny day, but the temperature was in the 40s, so I’m still confined to my mobile studio. But at least we seem to be past the threat of snow!) I thought this unusual view of the Green Lake neighborhood was just right for St. Patrick’s Day.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Unpaid Model

3/13/19 graphite, Yupo

While studying portraiture for a full intensive weekend with Gary Faigin, I heard repeatedly the value of learning to draw from life (rather than photos). If we can’t practice from professional models in a studio, he encouraged us to sketch unwitting models in public every chance we get. Short of that, he reminded us that we always have at least one head at our disposal – our own.

Suddenly the self-portraits I had been doing as part of selfie Sunday, a casual social media challenge, took on greater significance. Faigin said that most students in his full-term (10-week) classes studying his portraiture methods are able to draw with a strong likeness after practicing about 20 to 30 portraits. I don’t know when I’ll get to No. 30, but let’s call this one No. 1.

One part of his method that I’m ignoring (surprise, surprise) is the material – charcoal. Using a tortillon to smudge soft graphite (here, I used an 8B) and the same kind of kneadable eraser we used in the workshop, I think I can still apply his principles and techniques for the purpose of learning. And like the smooth paper we used in class, I’m using Yupo, which I’ve already discovered to be a fun support during life drawing sessions. The result is different from charcoal, of course, but also much cleaner.

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